On August 8, this year John Eliot Gardiner directed the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique in a performance of Berlioz’ La damnation de Faust for the BBC Proms. The soloists were Ann Hallenberg, Michael Spyres, and bass Laurent Naouri. The great choral part was sung by The Monteverdi Choir and the National Youth Choir of Scotland.
Berlioz called his scenes from Goethe’s Faust a dramatic legend. It is often staged as an opera. I saw such a performance in Berlin in the early 80s. But the work is really an opera of the mind and best presented as its composer intended. Whatever you call it, it is a unique work that when well performed overwhelms the listener with both its beauty and dramatic force. ‘Force’ is really too weak a word – ‘hurricane’ is more apt.
The performance is available for streaming for 30 days after which it will vanish. It’s a wonderful effort which brings distinction to all involved. All three principals were outstanding. Spyres continues to dazzle with his beautifully modulated tone and expressive singing. Here are his singing of Merci, doux crépuscule! from Part 3 and Nature immense, impénétrable et fière from Part 4. Before the recording becomes unavailable, I will add a link to it that should last a bit longer.
The two links below are to the performance discussed below.